Candidates in key races across the region are urging voters to head to the polls early this week and next rather than wait until Nov. 6 to cast their ballots.

In Maryland, where there are hard-fought contests for governor, the legislature, and several county executive posts and congressional seats, early-voting sites open Thursday and will operate through Nov. 1.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Democratic opponent Ben Jealous planned to greet residents at early-voting sites Thursday and held rallies this week trying to boost turnout and shore up their support.

In the District, where the most competitive race is for two at-large D.C. Council seats, voters have been able to cast ballots since Monday at One Judiciary Square. Additional early-voting sites will open Friday in all eight wards. Early voting in the city continues through Nov. 2.

The number of voters who have cast early “absentee” ballots in Virginia, where there are several hotly contested races for Congress, has soared compared with last year. Virginia voters can cast absentee ballots in person if they have a valid excuse for not voting on Election Day.

Jealous, who has struggled to gain momentum, is targeting “infrequent” voters — those who voted in 2016 but not 2014 — and counting on a record Democratic turnout at the polls to boost his standing. On Wednesday, he greeted commuters at the Mondawmin Metro station in Baltimore with former U.S. senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D), Mayor Catherine E. Pugh (D), Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) and Del. Antonio L. Hayes (D-Baltimore).

“When we vote, we win,” Jealous said, noting that Democratic turnout fell significantly in 2014. “Larry Hogan only got into office because we didn’t show up.”

Mikulski, 82, urged voters to “make democracy work” and said she was for “Ben and Ben,” referring to Jealous and U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.). As Jealous turned toward her, Mikulski, known for being blunt, said, “Don’t shake my hand — let’s talk to the voters.”

Wanda Pailin, a health-care worker, asked Jealous about a plan for police training and told him that he could count on her vote.

Damario Clifton, 18, said he had just learned about the race from his high school counselor and planned to register during early voting and look at the candidates’ backgrounds. “I don’t want to vote for the wrong person,” he said.

Hogan, who leads Jealous in polls by double digits, told about 150 people gathered in Gaithersburg on Tuesday night that he is campaigning as if he is trailing by 20 points. He asked voters to show up at the polls with the same idea.

“I’m not taking anything for granted,” he said.

In the crowd was Roy Fleischer, a Democrat from Gaithersburg, and Cynthia Wood, an independent from Laurel. Both backed Hogan in 2014. Wood inched toward the governor as he posed for pictures before taking the stage.

“He just seems to be doing all the right things,” she said, explaining why she planned to vote for him again.

There are a number of down-ballot contests that could help drive turnout in Maryland, including competitive races for county executive in Montgomery and Baltimore counties; in the 6th Congressional District, where Democrat David Trone is taking on Republican Amie Hoeber; and in the 1st District, where Rep. Andy Harris (R) is facing an energetic challenge from Democrat Jesse Colvin.

In the Montgomery race for county executive, progressive Democrat Marc Elrich is in a three-way race with fellow at-large County Council member Nancy Floreen, a Democrat turned independent, and Republican Robin Ficker, who is making his 20th run for public office. In the Baltimore County executive contest, Democrat Johnny Olszewski Jr., also a progressive and a former delegate, is competing against Republican Al Redmer Jr., who was appointed by Hogan as the state insurance commissioner, for the open seat.

Each Maryland county has at least one early-voting site; some have as many as 11. Details about how and where to vote are available at

D.C. voters can find locations and times at earlyvoting.dcboe. org. Polls are open from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. All eligible voters can register to vote and cast a ballot at any of the early-voting sites, regardless of where they live in the city.

The most competitive election on the D.C. ballot is for the two at-large council seats, one of which is reserved for a non-Democrat. Voters can pick two candidates, and the top two vote-getters win seats. Council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large) is favored to win one of the seats as the only Democratic candidate, while independent Dionne Reeder is vying to unseat Elissa Silverman (I) with the endorsement and financial backing of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D). Independent Rustin Lewis, D.C. Statehood Green Party candidate David Schwartzman and Republican Ralph Chittams Sr. are also on the ballot.

Bowser, Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D), D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) are running for reelection without serious competition. Incumbent council members representing Wards 1, 3, 5 and 6 are also on the ballot.

Fenit Nirappil contributed to this report.